Broward slump proves stubborn as home sales drop 22%
Breathe deeply, hot-under-the-collar home sellers.
South Florida's housing slump continued in June, hitting the 18-month mark. Analysts who had predicted improvement this year now are pointing to the second half of 2008 or later.
Sales of existing homes in Broward County tumbled 22 percent last month, to 674 from 861, the Florida Association of Realtors said Wednesday.
But the median price of an existing home in the county rose a modest 1 percent or $4,600, to $382,000 from $377,400 a year ago, the association said. Tallahassee and Ocala, north of Orlando, were the only other areas in the state to have median price increases in June.
The fallout from the subprime mortgage mess and the dramatic rise in the number of properties on the market have deepened the regional downturn. The county's existing home sales, for example, are off 21 percent in the first half of 2007, compared to a year ago.
"The search for a bottom is ongoing," said Mike Larson of Weiss Research in Jupiter. "We're not there yet. The history of real estate says that it goes in long cycles. It's a little naive to expect a quick bounce-back after such a large bubble."
Many sellers are finding interest to be tepid, even as they cut prices.
June Bechthold and Allan Sacks have been trying to sell their two-bedroom home near the water in Deerfield Beach since January. They originally asked $434,900 but have since dropped the price to what they hope is an eye-catching $387,387.
The couple has had only one offer, and it was too low.
"We're not trying to get top dollar," said Bechthold, 65, a retired volunteer services coordinator. "We're just going to hang in there."
With property taxes and homeowner insurance still major concerns, home prices have to come down to attract buyers, said David Levin, a Delray Beach housing consultant.
"That's the only way to create affordability from a monthly payment perspective," Levin said. The number of homes and condominiums for sale in Broward has stabilized recently at about 47,000, according to the Miami-based Keyes Co.
But that figure still is more than triple the number from two years ago.
Meanwhile, the existing condo market took a hit in June.
Sales plummeted 35 percent, to 595 from 910 a year ago. The median price fell $18,200, to $194,100 from $212,300. Existing condos in Broward may have been hurt by the deals developers are giving buyers of new units, analysts say.
The housing slowdown also is apparent in other parts of Florida and the nation.
The median home price in Palm Beach County dropped $27,600 in June to $377,900 and sales declined 22 percent. Statewide, the median price fell $13,000 to $243,200, and sales plummeted 30 percent.
Nationally, sales dropped by 3.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.75 million units, the slowest sales pace in more than four years. The median price of a new home inched up to $230,300 in June, a 0.1 percent increase from a year ago.
The median means half sold for more, half for less.
Florida's new property-tax plan, which Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law last month, is doing little to improve the market, agents say.
"People aren't sure where they stand," said Sharon Castrillon-Harrington of Prudential Florida WCI Realty in Palm Beach County.
Under the plan, the average homeowner could expect to save $174 in property taxes this year. On Jan. 29, Florida voters will consider a "super-sized" homestead exemption, which initially would give homeowners a more significant tax savings, only to decrease over time.
Deerfield Beach agent Carole Watson and other critics of the super exemption say it doesn't provide enough long-term relief for the region's beleaguered housing market.
"We were looking for the state to do more than it did," Watson said.